Lifting weights is not a common exercise routine integrated into physical education programs for most children. Part of the reason for this is the widely held perception that lifting weights can damage growth plates in children's bodies, resulting in stunted growth. This fear has been greatly overstated, and that there may be no risk of stunting growth through normal weightlifting practices.
Weightlifting has a strong history of being considered unhealthy for children. According to "The New York Times," it has long been widely believed that weightlifting was futile for children and adolescents because they are unable to build muscle mass the same way adults do. Furthermore, the effects of weightlifting were believed to stunt growth plates in the body, preventing the child from developing to a normal size.
The effect of weightlifting stunting a child's growth has been debunked as a myth, according to a massive study published in "Pediatrics" in November 2010. This study analyzed 60 years' worth of data regarding children and weightlifting and concluded that there was no risk to a child's physical health when lifting weights. In fact, the benefits can be considerable.
Lifting weights is an excellent way to develop muscle mass and build muscular endurance. It also helps strengthen the bones and improve bone density, and the exercise can help children regulate their body weight. Strength training exercises like lifting weights can help boost metabolism and promote good blood pressure and low cholesterol.
Despite the research, you may be inclined to delay your child's introduction to weightlifting. Fortunately, there are other ways your child can enjoy the benefits of strength training without lifting weights. Resistance tubing is a form of exercise that uses resistance bands and other small exercise accessories to strengthen bones and muscle. You can also strength train by doing pushups, situps, leg squats and other exercises using only body weight.
While weightlifting may not pose a risk of stunting your child's growth, high levels of stress produced by intense weightlifting could cause damage to some parts of the body in younger children. This is exacerbated when the lifts are performed with improper form. While research lauds the benefits of weightlifting, it is important to follow proper form and procedures to avoid damage to young bone and muscle tissues.
- KidsHealth.org: Strength Training and Your Child
- "Pediatrics"; Effects of Resistance Training in Children and Adolescents: A Meta-Analysis; Michael Behringer, Dr. med. et al.; Nov. 2010
- Medioimages/Photodisc/Photodisc/Getty Images